Historic oak falls at Lanterman House

A towering oak tree that had stood for more than a century came crashing down this weekend onto the parking lot of the Lanterman House, the victim of heavy winds and rains that also felled a number of other large trees throughout La Cañada Flintridge.

The 60-foot-tall native oak had shaded most of the property’s south side and predated the Lanterman House, built in 1915, by decades, said Executive Director Melissa Patton.

“It’s a huge loss. I’m really upset about it,” Patton said Tuesday, when only a 15-foot segment of the tree’s massive trunk remained. “We have a lot of oaks on the property, but this one was the biggest. It certainly was here when the home was built.”

In addition to the iconic oak, at least half a dozen other trees fell around the city late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, including several that temporarily blocked streets, La Cañada Flintridge Facilities and Maintenance Superintendent Gonzalo Venegas said.

“We got a call at 1:03 a.m. [Sunday] from L.A. County that four large trees had come down and were blocking streets,” said Venegas, who immediately called in five work crews from city contractors West Coast Arborists to clear parts of Verdugo Boulevard, Chevy Chase Drive and Commonwealth and Hillard avenues.

Crews also roped off a stretch of sidewalk along the north side of Foothill Boulevard just west of Ocean View Boulevard after three boulders were knocked loose from the hillside directly above.

Rainfall on Saturday night and Sunday came down with such force that Descanso Gardens was forced to cancel Sunday’s continuation of its much-anticipated Cherry Blossom Festival. Nearly 3,500 people had arrived Saturday for the first day of the event, said spokeswoman Jamie Bray.

Two trees on the Descanso grounds fell during the storm, said Bray, who added that the cherry blossom trees were unharmed and remain in bloom for visitors.

But for all the wet and wild weather, debris flow from Station fire burn areas was surprisingly minimal.

“There was a lot of water in the debris basins, but they still reported at less than 5% filled. That means they’re literally empty [of debris],” said L.A. County Department of Public Works spokesman Bob Spencer.

Although more than 50,000 Southern California Edison customers in L.A. and Orange counties lost power during the weekend, spokeswoman Vanessa McGrady said there were no significant outages in La Cañada Flintridge or La Crescenta.

And for as many trees that came down around the city — possibly the most during a single storm since late 2002, Venegas said — property damage was limited to mailboxes, driveway lights and a car that was parked on Hampton Road.

At 4358 Chevy Chase Drive, a Chinese elm fell across the street, blocking access between Descanso Drive and Foothill Boulevard for several hours, Venegas said.

At 1341 Verdugo Blvd., near Union Street, a large oak tree also came down in the street.

Another tree at the corner of Earlmont and Jarvis avenues came crashing down onto mailboxes and driveway lights, and a large jacaranda that stood at 4145 Commonwealth Ave. fell across the street.

A large branch of a city-owned Chinese elm at the front of 4733 Hampton Road came down onto a parked car, damaging its roof and mirror, Venegas also said.

City work crews made quick work of clearing a smaller tree that fell near the intersection of Hillard Avenue and Foothill Boulevard.

A tree fell across the driveway of the Hill Street Café but was removed by the owner.

Patton said that she hopes to replace the fallen oak at Lanterman House with another oak or other native species, but will consult first with an arborist.

“Any tree on any given day can come down without provocation, but add in the saturation of the ground and the wind, and we’re just fortunate we didn’t have any more that came down,” Venegas said.

Much milder rainfall was expected to return to the area on Wednesday and Thursday, with a chance of rain also on Friday and Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Copyright © 2019, La Cañada Valley Sun
EDITION: California | U.S. & World